With a marked increase in recreation in popular wilderness areas and user motivations diversifying, management practices can no longer be reactionary and based on narratives and so-called anecdotal evidence. The High Peaks Wilderness Area of the Adirondacks, considered a hot spot for hiking, is faced with heavy use that threatens trail and ecosystem health. For managers to effectively protect fragile ecosystems and provide positive recreational experiences to users, a baseline of empirical data is needed. This pilot study starts that process by characterizing recreational users of the High Peaks, exploring their intent and preparation, and gaining their perspective on management actions that address capacity issues but also raise access concerns. The study surveyed 592 recreationists at 12 trailheads in the summer of 2020. There were fewer first-time visitors than expected, and most respondents engaged in preparation for their visit, accessing authoritative material. Almost all reported familiarity with Leave No Trace principles and about 75% sought a wilderness experience. Management actions that address capacity through controlling access (e.g. shuttles, closures, permits) received lukewarm support, and the participants were not as polarized as expected, some feeling unsure. These data are essential for understanding and establishing Limits of Acceptable Change, as well as providing criteria for management goals, not only for the High Peaks region but also for other parks experiencing similar issues.
Weiss, Jill; Elliott, Jordan; and Sullivan, Deanna
"Snapshot of Recreational Users in the Adirondacks 2020,"
Adirondack Journal of Environmental Studies: Vol. 25:
1, Article 5.
Available at: https://digitalworks.union.edu/ajes/vol25/iss1/5
Environmental Studies Commons, Leisure Studies Commons, Recreation, Parks and Tourism Administration Commons